Global Citizens showed up at the World Market Center in Las Vegas on Tuesday to cast their vote and celebrate their choice with a series of amazing performances by Vic Mensa, Madame Gandhi, Justine Skye, and DLow. There were taco trucks and lawn games, a brass band and a beat boxer, sign spinners and break dancers — all there to honor every citizen's right to vote. If Tuesday was any indication, then the democratic spirit is alive and well in the US and 2016 is poised to have massive voter turnout.
After nearly two years of bitter election coverage, the presidential election is less than 14 days away on Nov. 8. Many people will vote on that Tuesday, but citizens in Nevada can vote between Oct. 22 and Nov. 4 — an option that better suits the busy schedules of many people. In fact, it’s estimated that 60% of Nevada’s vote will be cast before Election Day.
Global Citizen’s #ShowupVote event in Las Vegas was an effort boost turnout even further. It was also a way to make voting seem less stale, and less of a hassle, and to remove some of the partisan sting from politics. The boisterous environment was a throwback to earlier times in the US when voting was actually seen as a joyous occasion, a chance for people to fully engage with the democratic process and claim a right that was historically denied to many.
Some of that civil rights- and suffrage-era enthusiasm was palpable on Tuesday, especially when the crowd broke out into an impromptu dance-off.
People in crowd were compelled to vote for many reasons. Gun control, recreational marijuana, jobs, climate change, the situation in Syria, and immigration were some of the issues we heard about over and over again.
Many voters were disappointed that Bernie Sanders was defeated in the Democratic primary. Others were coming out solely to help put a stop to Donald Trump with their vote. And others were excited by the prospect of a female president, the symbolic power of that transition.
"You can be voting for something and other people can be voting for something else," said Ellie, who works in the non-profit sector. "The ability to have choice makes America beautiful."
Voters were concerned about the situation in Syria and hoped that the next president wouldn't escalate the war there. At the same time, they wanted more to be done to help refugees.
When it came to climate change, everyone was unanimous: do more to protect the planet. People were more split about immigration, but were against breaking families apart through rampant deportations.
Ultimately, voters were ready for this election to be over and wanted to see an end to the fractious brand of partisan politics that has so divided the country.
"The biggest thing to remember is that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves," said Zach Hammond. "We need to care about the future of the planet more. Music is something that brings people together."
In Nevada, voters will choose a new senator this election. They will also decide on ballot measures about gun control and recreational marijuana.
The crowd at the #ShowUpVote event swelled throughout the day as the sun shone and the air stayed cool. People could played mini golf, took portraits, ate from a wall of food trucks, and danced.
DLow, a 21-year old Chicago rapper who counts Chance the Rapper as a role model, is excited to take part in his first presidential election. He already voted early, following the lead of Obama in his hometown.
“I think everybody’s vote counts, it matters,” DLow told Global Citizen earlier in the day. “If you don’t want your life to just be in the shadow, then you definitely have to step up and at least try.”
“Whoever wins this election is going to have control over a lot of things,” he said.
He also emphasized the importance of voting for more than just the president.
Electronic artist and former MIA drummer Madame Gandhi was a force on the stage. She carried forward the cool, melodic charm of her mentor, M.I.A.
Gandhi is a champion for women’s rights, the environment, and ending poverty, and she outlined the links between the US presidential election and global issues. She split her childhood between New York and Bombay, India, and these multifaceted contexts shaped her global perspective.
Her album drops this Friday and she treated the crowd to some unreleased singles, including "The Future is Female," a paean to the power of women.
Justine Skye got the crowd moving with her impeccable voice and backup dancers who slinked around the stage with athletic prowess. She's a rising star that's bound to be filling stadiums soon.
DLow was all high energy and exuberance from the start. He kept challenging people to dance more and eventually triggered a dance-off that brought out the best dancers in the crowd. By the end, he said he was tired from moving so furiously, but he reminded the audience that this election is incredibly important and that they had to get out and vote.
R&B artist Vic Mensa closed the night with a mesmerizing series of songs that had people squealing with excitement. Mensa explores the trauma of violence in his music. Some of his music is aggressive, while other songs are melancholic and meditative. He showed both sides in Vegas as he controlled the stage.
Overall, the acts tied the power of art to the importance of voting. After all, art can only flourish in free societies, and the ballot box helps to ensure that freedom.
Nevada is a battleground state that could go either way this election, but the latest polls show Hillary Clinton with the edge going into the final stretch.
“Let's face it, Nevada is always close,” Barack Obama said the day before at a rally in North Las Vegas. “Nevada always makes you a little nervous because you don't know what's going to happen. But that's what makes it exciting.”
For voters aligned with both candidates, the tightness of the race was incentive enough to get out early.
But a little music and guacamole certainly doesn't hurt, either.